Monday, November 22, 2010

Cowboy Hat Diatribe, Part III

November 22, 2010
Let me be clear right up front: this is a totally ridiculous rant about cowboy hats and, if it goes to court, I will plead guilty to being Mister Ridiculousness and, or, the Mad Hatter.

But, I am sick of seeing Westerns do poorly at the box office (Jonah Hex, Appaloosa, Saraphin Falls) and part of it, I'm convinced, is that the historical consultants on these films are squashing any style that is fun in the cause of historical accuracy (and, it's not just hats). In other words, guys and gals like me, and you, are ruining Westerns.

Yes, you heard me right. Why? Simple. The fun has been taken out of the genre.

I recently read about the guys at Disney who re-imagined the Pirate movie , which at the time was a totally dead movie genre. One of the guys who worked on it said that the historical consultants railed about the fact that real pirates didn't have peg legs, didn't have parrots on their shoulders and didn't dig up buried treasure, but, the Disney guy reasoned, when people go to a pirate movie that's what they expect to see. A half billion dollars in ticket sales for the PIrates of the Caribbean franchise would seem to vindicate that reasoning.

Now that doesn't mean I want to see a sea of buscadero rigs and sugarloaf sombreros on every head, but, we have to lighten up and embrace the history of the genre a little more. And by the genre I mean all the previous Westerns. More importantly, like in the example of the Disney Pirate Movie, the people who go to Westerns want to see cowboy hats, savage villains (with cool costuming), wide open spaces and massive gun play. Oh, and great horses running like crazy. If you think about the recent failures, like Wild Bill (great hat on Jeff Bridges, but it was town bound, no outdoor horse riding) or Jonah Hex (I don't think Georgia and the South really fits the wide open spaces bill).

Anyway, as part of my series on the myth of the flat-brimmed cowboy hat in the real West, here is part II of that quest:

Costumer: Hey, we were looking at the old Wild, Wild West tv show and we would love to feature a hat like the one Jim West wore. Can we use that style hat?

Historical Consultant: No, no, no. That is a 1950s style hat with the sides going upward. Nobody in the real Old West ever wore a hat like that.

Okay, Wise Guy, then what about this?

A hunter from 1850! And, by the way, we see more of these winged hats in the 1850s, than in the 1880s. Not sure why, but they are all over the California Gold Rush and you see them in photo after photo. This is from the excellent book "Hunting The American West," by Richard. C. Rattenbury.

"Things are now what they always were, and to be disappointed in them is extremely shallow."
—Saul Bellow

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